Rather than share things I’m listening to right now, I decided to share some of my favorites from my teenage years, all the way up to now. I’ve broken the list down to a few symphonic pieces, a few albums, and a few individual songs.
Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
No music list of mine would be complete without Tchaikovsky. This amazing symphony helped spark my love for the symphony orchestra as a teenager, and I hope it does the same for you. I was captivated immediately by Tchaikovsky’s ability to express heartbreak and tragedy, passion and longing, all in a beautiful musical package that’ll whisk you away. If nothing else, I hope your heart melts a little with mine at the 6:13 mark. This particular recording displays the music so you can follow along.
blue cathedral, Jennifer Higdon
In addition to the touching story behind this composition’s genesis, I’m drawn to the sensationally intricate rhythms that float through this music, seeming to obscure pulse and eventually boiling over into an exhilarating orchestral dance party at 7:03. There are other perhaps ‘better’ recordings, but I couldn’t help recommend this one of a fabulous youth symphony.
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Claude Debussy
This music is saturated in colorful harmonies. One of my absolute favorite moments in all of symphonic music is the 40 seconds of ecstasy starting at 5:04. The blissful clashes between the soaring string melody and delicately insistent woodwind pulses have always been inspiring to me. Try conducting along with the music in your three pattern- it’s not easy! Use the strings as your gravitational guide for beat one. I’ve included a recording with the sheet music to help.
Honorable Mention: Death & Transfiguration, Richard Strauss
For the full albums below, I’ve included links that should play each track in succession.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco
On a personal level, this record has meant the world to me. Nearly each track has hit me uniquely at different moments in my life, perhaps none more than the opener.
Ok Computer - Radiohead
Similar to the Wilco above, this one has always had a direct line to my heart, especially as a teenager. In particular I’ve loved Paranoid Android, Exit Music, Climbing the Walls, and No Surprises.
Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
Great album or greatest album? I can’t decide.
Honorable Mention: Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
Transatlantique - Beirut
I was quite late to discovering Beirut, but have enjoyed the interesting blend of flavors in much of their music. Incidentally, their front man, Zach Condon spent lots of his life in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Echos - Pink Floyd
More Pink Floyd, I know. I know. I’ve just always loved the different ‘worlds’ this music travels through in one song. In particular, the groove starting at the 7:00 mark.
All Blues, Miles Davis
Miles, Cannonball, Evans, Mr. PC, Jimmy C., and my favorite- Coltrane? Yes please!
Honorable Mention: Elephant Gun, Beirut
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 and died in 1750. He was a German composer during the Baroque era which began around 1600 and ended with his death in 1750. The Baroque era included among others, the composers Handel, Monteverdi, Vivaldi and Buxtehude. Baroque music is noted for its ornamentations such as trills, its counterpoint, (multiple lines with rhythmic variation), and its various complex forms such as Fugues, Inventions, Toccatas, Sonatas, Suites, and Oratorios.
During Bach’s lifetime, the system of equal temperament tuning that we use to this day emerged, which allowed composers to develop complex modulations to far away keys over the course of a composition. This tuning system of equal distant semi-tones allowed Bach and his contemporaries to compose increasingly complex harmonic music. One of Bach’s master works are his “Well Tempered Clavier”, which includes 2 books of preludes and fugues for keyboard in all 24 keys (12 major, 12 minor), that explore the possibilities available in an equal temperament tuning system, and established what we now call the “Common Practice Era” of western harmony that defined the next 200 years of classical music (early 18th century-1900), and includes among others; Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, as well as many popular music composers from in the 20th and 21st century who continue to work in similar harmonic structures.
Among Bach’s numerous compositions are many works for Church including numerous Oratorios, Church Cantatas, Motets, Passions, Masses, and hundreds of Chorales. His responsibilities as a church organist included writing new music every week, which he did for most of his professional life.
He also wrote numerous solo works for keyboard, cello, solo violin, lute and various other solo works.
Some of his most famous works include the following master works:
Toccata and Fugue
The Brandenburg Concerto
The Well Tempered Clavier
Air for the G string
The St. Matthew Passion
The Intermezzo String Orchestra will be performing a collection of short Bach Miniatures for the upcoming “From Sea To Shining Sea” SFYSA concert this month.
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